Hornet Statehouse Buzz Jan. 18, 2022
Week 1 of the Statehouse Buzz
January 18, 2022—Week One
Welcome to the first issue of Hornet Statehouse Buzz, the summary of the week of events at the Topeka capital. Each week in the session there will be a summary of the events pertaining to higher education, and Emporia State. Be on the watch for the updates each week.
Musings by Greg
My first week as a government relations officer at the Capital was an exciting one for higher education. Governor Kelly proposed in her State of the State address on Tuesday night that she was recommending a freeze in tuition for all the regents’ schools. She gave no further specifics at that time. Her budget director, Adam Proffitt (a good name for a budget director, isn’t it?) to provide the specifics.
During a combined House Appropriations/Senate Ways and Means committee hearing on Wednesday, January 12, Proffitt presented the good news for higher education. Everything the Board of Regents asked for in October—what the media called “the big ask”—an amount of $161 million—was granted in Governor Kelly’s budget. The links to the budget report are here:
The portion of the full budget report dealing with higher education is here, pages 134-146:
Particularly relevant are one-time budget increases to KBOR on page 6 totaling about $60 million, including $25 million for deferred maintenance. The big news was the restoration of university operational funding to pre-pandemic levels ($45 million) and $25 million for Kansas Access Partnership grants for need based aid to families to encourage greater college enrollment, The higher education information is on page 17.
Now the real work begins. In the few conversations I have had with lawmakers thus far, there seems to be some support for restoring the $45 million as universities have certainly not received much from the state for operational costs. But anything can happen, and I will keep you updated once hearings and bills pour in on higher education.
- ESU will have Rep. Mark Schreiber introduce a bill to sell the Earl Center. The sale of the property was approved by KBOR in December.
- Senator Jeff Longbine has proposed SB 322 through the Joint Committee on Pensions, Investments and Benefits. This bill will allow state agencies to keep the profits from the sale of surplus real estate (like the Earl Center) rather than having the profits go to KPERS as is required under current statute. KPER is supportive of such a change as the money generated over recent years has not been substantial. This is a bill worth watching.
- Two things on buildings: Before Christmas there was a report in the press that a proposal to eliminate the 1.5 mill levy to fund state buildings (universities receive 1 mill from this which goes to fund the Educational Building Fund), might be on the chopping block. There is not a lot of support for this from some legislators I spoke to, nor from the universities which would be hurt by the guaranteed dollars in the mill levy, replaced with State General Fund dollars.
- There was also a report before Christmas of a new contractor’s alliance established by Ed McKechnie, a former Pittsburg legislator and regent, and David Kensinger, Governor Sam Brownback’s former chief-of-staff, to get a $315 million appropriation from the legislature for seven years to rehabilitate university buildings. The catch? Universities would have to commit $45 million to this amount for this to go forward. That money would come from tuition increases or from donations to the university. Few people give money to a university to pay for operational expenses. The cost would be a burdensome one for universities. Haven’t yet heard any takers on this, but there was some interest in attempting to solve the maintenance of buildings on campuses long term.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Greg Schneider at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will see you online next week updates from the Hornet Statehouse Buzz.